The tipple that claims it’s booze free but not buzz free

The tipple that claims it’s booze free but not buzz free: CLAUDIA CONNELL tries the latest ‘social elixir’

  • The current obsession with healthy living has impacted alcohol consumption 
  • Claudia Connell explores the best alcohol alternatives to enjoy on a night out 
  • High-end drink Three Spirit, looks like alcohol but doesn’t contain any 
  • The makers of the ‘social elixir’ claim it’s still able to bring a feeling of pleasure
  • One of the founders says the drink is not an imitation of any alcoholic product 
  • Claudia also noted Seedlip, STRYYK and Ceder’s as alcohol free indulgences

Just imagine this scenario: it’s the morning after a big night out with friends. You stayed out later than you intended, the drink was flowing and you revelled in that familiar relaxed feeling that alcohol brings.

But when you wake there’s no thumping head and no craving for carbs. It may sound like the impossible dream, but that’s exactly what the producers of Three Spirit, a new high-end drink say is possible.

The main reason for the lack of hangover is that Three Spirit may sound alcoholic, it may be packaged to look like alcohol — but it doesn’t contain a drop. Yet, the makers claim that, thanks to its cocktail of botanical ingredients, it can still bring a feeling of ‘bliss and pleasure’.

As our obsession with healthy living grows, today one in five adults are teetotal while a further seven million are looking to cut down. Little wonder low alcohol and alcohol-free drinks are one of the fastest growing sectors in the drinks market, accounting for around £26 million in annual sales.

Claudia Connell revealed a selection of the best alternative beverages to enjoy on a teetotal night out, including “social elixir” Three Spirit (pictured)

The non or conscientious drinker is no longer happy to sip fizzy drinks in bars and restaurants, they want something alcohol-like and sophisticated instead.

Seedlip, a distilled non-alcoholic gin-alike, was the first drink to take the market by storm four years ago. It’s now available in every supermarket and sells around one million units a year. The £26 (in Waitrose) price tag making it more expensive than many actual gins, is seemingly no obstacle.

Laura Willoughby, who gave up drinking seven years ago in her late 30s, is the founder of Club Soda. It’s an online mindful drinking movement for those who want to either stop drinking or cut back.

She says: ‘Younger people are drinking less than previous generations and older people are changing their drinking habits. They’re now wise to the fact that you can eat as much kale as you like, but if you then drink a bottle of wine every night, you’re going to undo all the hard work.’

Where Seedlip led, Three Spirit follows, taking things a step further by not attempting to ape any spirit. Instead, it’s marketed as ‘botanical alchemy’ and a ‘social elixir’.

Tatiana Mercer, one of Three Spirit’s founders, tells me: ‘We wanted to create something that allowed you to feel good without alcohol, something that fills the gap between drinking and non-drinking and that’s why it’s called a “social elixir.” ’

Three Spirit is a blend of water, distilled botanicals and extracts: coconut vinegar, green tea, caraway seed, cacao and passion flower are the ingredients I have heard of. I had to Google Lion’s Mane (a fungus), Damiana (a yellow flowering shrub), Tulsi (a herb also known as ‘Holy Basil’) and Yerba Mate (a south American super herb).

I can’t pretend drinking cold tea and fungus lights my fire, but what have I got to lose? Certainly not my glasses on a train like the last time I drank too much.

Laura Willoughby believes customers are willing to pay more for a non-alcoholic drink when taking into consideration the savings associated with not drinking alcohol (file image)

Three Spirit is available online and in Harvey Nichols. My £24.99 heavy, dark green bottle arrived beautifully packaged.

The first test came when I removed the screw lid and inhaled the liquid. It smelt exactly like HP sauce, which was probably not the aroma they were going for. Luckily, I love HP sauce and poured myself a measure.

As soon as it was in the glass I understood exactly why it’s in a dark green bottle. It’s an unappealing, sludgy brown colour and looks like cold gravy.

‘Because of the plant and active ingredients, you can’t filter it, so it was never going to be clear,’ says Tatiana. ‘It’s not an imitation of any alcohol product.’

Best of the rest 


Best of the rest SEEDLIP The original and most famous non-alcoholic spirit is now stocked in more than 3,000 bars and restaurants globally. Try the fresh and floral Garden 108, made from hand-picked peas and hay (yes, really) served with tonic and ice. Seedlip Garden 108, 70cl, £26.50,


Crafted to look, taste and even have the punchiness of rum, this zero-proof Stryyk Not Rum includes clove, oakwood and grapefruit. Stryyk Not Rum, £19.95 for 70cl,


A gin-alternative distilled from rare South African botanicals and blended with juniper, coriander and pristine Swedish water. Ceder’s Wild Non-Alcoholic Spirit 50cl, £19,

I found it surprisingly palatable, if very rich. I could taste the acidity in the coconut vinegar and I also got a hit from the cacao. The thing I was most intrigued about was the idea that Three Spirit might be able to give me that buzz that comes with a couple of glasses of sauvignon blanc.

I’m not talking dancing-on-the-tables-and-telling-the-whole-bar-I-love-them, rather a feeling of being relaxed and happy.

I waited and I waited and … nothing. I had another shot … still nothing. Could the lack of feelgood factor come from the fact I was drinking alone?

Three Spirit worked with a phytochemist and consulted herbalists when researching their formula, but when I spoke to medical herbalist Trudy Norris, she was sceptical. A member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists she says: ‘I imagine that any feelgood factor is going to come from the social setting and the people you’re drinking around.

‘I suspect any herbal dosages in the product are going to be minimal and not enough to experience any therapeutic benefits.’

But what about the ‘botanical alchemy’? In my mind I imagined the blend of plants worked together to create some magical Harry Potter-esque potion. Or was that just the drink talking?

Trudy says: ‘It’s true that synergy does happen in plants, just as flavours work together in food. But the concentration would have to be very high to achieve that.’ Yet Tatiana tells me that 65 per cent of their customers experience a relaxed sensation. Testimonials on the website talk of getting a ‘nice buzz’.

Eager to feel the feelgood I took the bottle into the office and asked some of the women to join me in a glass. We mixed the drink with soda and ice and chatted and laughed as we sipped.

An hour later we were half a bottle down and although we all enjoyed our drinks none of us experienced a change in mood.

Three Spirit hope to get their product into pubs and bars nationwide and I can imagine a non-drinker ordering: ‘Three Spirit and soda please,’ without the awkwardness you get ordering fizzy pop in a pub. But isn’t £25 for a 50cl bottle too expensive for a non-alcoholic drink?

As Laura Willoughby says: ‘You’re not going to be getting a taxi home, ordering a takeaway, losing your keys or phoning in sick for work the next day.

‘The associated costs of drinking go beyond the cost of the alcohol. Our members save £200 a month through not drinking so they’re willing to pay more.’

I enjoyed my experiment and I would try Three Spirit again, but when it comes to kicking back after a long day then, for me, it’s still gin for the win.

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